May 4, 2017

Drink Like It's 1867 At Leinenkugel's Brewery

Leinenkugel's sign

photo by: jpellgen/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jacob Leinenkugel opened his first brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in 1867.

Few businesses have survived the kinds of industry upheavals Leinenkugel’s Brewing has. Since opening in 1867, it’s weathered Prohibition, the Depression, the consolidation of the major brewing behemoths, and today’s craft beer explosion.

Yet the good stuff still flows at the Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin brewery, and loyal drinkers still flock to see the 1877 stone malt house that’s been the home of Leinenkugel’s for well over a century.

Jacob Leinenkugel came to the small logging town from Meckenheim, Germany—where his father had brewed beer as well—in 1845. As his beer caught on with the Wisconsin lumberjacks, he expanded the two-man operation, constructing the four-story brewhouse in 1890, allowing for production of up to 200 barrels per day, and building an icehouse, a bottling house, and barns for the horses that would transport the beer.

Leinenkugel's Exterior

photo by: Randy/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The stone malthouse, built in 1877, is still in use at the brewery.

The brewery was on its second generation of Leinenkugel leadership when Prohibition became the law of the land in 1919, forcing it to shift gears and brew a “near-beer” called Leino and bottle soda water instead of beer. For obvious reasons, the Leino never really caught on, leaving the brewery on thin financial ice as the 21st Amendment passed and the nation’s economy spiraled. Katherine Leinenkugel and Rose Leinenkugel Casper—the third generation of family ownership—both borrowed against their homes to modernize the facility and turned things around.

In 1988 the brewery was bought by Miller Brewing, putting what was a truly regional beer on the national market and leading the Leinenkugels to open a second brewing facility in 1995. But the operation, like the family’s story, remains rooted in Chippewa Falls with the 19th-century stone malthouse still in use and photographs and artifacts proudly displayed.

So drink like a lumberjack and journey through Wisconsin beer history when you visit Leinenkugel’s:

Location: 124 E. Elm Street, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729

Hours: Sunday—Wednesday: 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m., Thursday—Saturday: 10:00 a.m.—8:00 p.m.

You’re having: After the tour, $10 gets you two 12 oz. beers, a snack, and a pint glass. Go for the Leinenkugel's Original and a Sunset Wheat as the weather warms up.

Best Yelp Review: “Truly a landmark of the Chippewa Valley! I have gone on the tour with friends and family too many times to count and it still is exciting every time to see the brewery."

Jared Foretek enjoys historic train stations, old bars, and interesting public spaces, he was an editorial intern at the National Trust.

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